Results for Detroit
In the 1990's, the musical attitude of Detroit was reshaped by artists like Eminem and Jack White. But now the Motor City's mood has changed even more, and the minimalist post-punk sounds of Protomartyr are at the fore. The four-piece made a big impact on Greg back at this year's SXSW in Austin, TX with an almost contradictory mix of urgency and restraint, courtesy of guitarist Greg Ahee's stripped down playing and vocalist Joe Casey's sometimes callous, sometimes cool vocals. The band is rounded out by bassist Scott Davidson and drummer Alex Leonard and Greg welcomes them into the studio for a conversation and performance of songs off their sophomore album, Under Color of Official Right. In addition to their connection to literary icon Elmore Leonard, the band also tells Greg about how they went from a somewhat nonchalant beginnings, to constructing a tightly arranged and thoroughly purposeful album guided by the philosophy of doing more with less.Go to episode 470
California garage rockers The BellRays join Jim and Greg in the studio this week. Some listeners may be hearing of the band for the first time (as our hosts explain, they are a group on the rise). The BellRays gained attention at festivals like SXSW and through their appearance in a Nissan Xterra commercial, but many people may only be familiar with lead singer Lisa Kekaula's side projects: Her powerful voice has been lent to Crystal Method, Basement Jaxx, and a recent MC5 reunion tour.
No one should doubt that The BellRays is a collaborative effort, though. The band's fifth album, Have a Little Faith, was produced by bassist Bob Vennum (who happens to be Lisa's husband), and most of the songs were written by guitarist Tony Fate. These three are joined by drummer Craig Waters to achieve a sound that is hard to describe. Many clichés have been attached to the group's music, which our hosts decided to call "part Tina Turner, part MC5." It's all fine with the band; just don‘t say they’re from Detroit.Go to episode 35
This week, Jim and Greg talk to shock-rock legend Alice Cooper. Cooper was born in Detroit but later moved to Arizona for high school, where he was a teenage jock in a rock band. His group, The Spiders, performed around Phoenix and LA for a few years before they changed their name to Alice Cooper (Alice's real name is Vincent Furnier.) Their first couple albums Pretties For Youand Easy Action didn't gain much traction but once they teamed up with producer Bob Ezrin, they found success with the album Love It to Death. A string of popular records followed such as School's Out, Billion Dollar Babies and Welcome to My Nightmare but for a time, critics couldn‘t see past the group’s on-stage antics. Alice is perhaps most famous for his special brand of shock-rock including props like snakes, guillotines and even straight jackets. Now, he put out a 15-CD box set, The Studio Albums 1969-1983 and is touring with his new supergroup The Hollywood Vampires, which he formed alongside Johnny Depp and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry. Jim and Greg were very excited to speak with Cooper and discuss his on-stage persona, sobriety, music catalogue and relationships with other famous artists.Go to episode 513
Time to get funky. Jim and Greg are joined by Bootsy Collins to go through the history of Funk. The heart of the genre is the rhythm. When James Brown wanted to“give the drummer some,”he meant it. In addition, as funk grew so did the development of the black band. Previously, as with doo wop groups, the emphasis was on the singer. Bootsy's own career as a singer, songwriter and bassist mirrors the development of funk. After performing in the Pacemakers with his brother Catfish, both Collins men joined James Brown's backing band The JB's. Bootsy credits James Brown with teaching him the concept of "The One," and they collaborated on funk classics like "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine" and "Super Bad." His next move was to Detroit to work with George Clinton on Parliament and Funkadelic, and he later formed his own group, Rubber Band. His latest album is aptly named The Funk Capital of the World.
To cap off the segment, Jim and Greg talk about two significant funk tracks. Greg plays "It's Your Thing," by The Isley Brothers, featuring virtuosic bass playing by a 16-year old Ernie Isley. Jim goes to Bootsy's home state and plays The Ohio Players' song "Funky Worm."Go to episode 303
Death For The Whole World To See
The final review this week is a reissue from Detroit punk band Death. …For The Whole World To See took thirty years to see the light of day, but now Chicago label Drag City has resurrected the album, and Jim and Greg are thrilled. It was groundbreaking for three African Americans from Detroit to play punk and garage rock instead of soul and R&B. Listening to this album Jim can easily picture the group on a bill with Iggy and The Stooges and the MC5. Greg admits the music is somewhat primitive, but finds it aggressive and packed with ambition. …For the Whole World to See gets a double Buy It.
Protomartyr The Agent Intellect
Detroit post-punk band and former Sound Opinions guests Protomartyr earned a lot of notice for its second album Under Color of Official Right. It also placed high on Greg's Best of 2014 list. Now they've returned with a new record titled The Agent Intellect. Jim lauds vocalist Joe Casey's ability to write very smart yet moving lyrics, powerfully exploring his mother's battle with Alzheimer's. The band's musical approach, which reflects both the bleakness and the pride of contemporary Detroit, places them among the all-time great bands of the Motor City. Jim particularly points toward the propulsive yet sleek drumming of Alex Leonard. Greg agrees, saying that against expectations, Protomartyr improves with each album. Casey's lyrics fall in the literary tradition of a Nelson Algren or Charles Bukowski, but are filled with emotion rather than pretention. The band doesn't waste any notes, instead delivering precise jabs. Greg even goes so far as to call Protomartyr one of the“Great American Bands”who are resurrecting the entire art form. Both critics give The Agent Intellect an enthusiastic Buy It.
Bob Seger Ride Out
When you hear the name Bob Seger, it's fair to picture your kooky aunt dancing to“Night Moves”at the last family BBQ. But, Jim and Greg say there's more to this Detroit rocker. Now with his 17th album, this elder statesmen is having a real impact in terms of influencing sounds for his neighbors to the south in Nashville. Think Zak Brown and Travis Tritt. So, what do we hear on Ride Out? In addition to some noteworthy covers of songs by Steve Earle, Woody Guthrie and John Hiatt, he really lets his personality shine through on his own material. But, while this artist deserves the respect of you youngins, this isn't a must-own according to Jim and Greg. They say Try It.
The White Stripes Icky Thump
Jim and Greg spend the last leg of the show discussing the new album from Detroit natives Meg and Jack White. Icky Thump is The White Stripes‘ sixth studio effort in nearly ten years. Jim and Greg trace the duo’s trajectory from their 1999 self-titled debut, to most recently, their 2005 commercial success and sonic departure, Get Behind Me Satan. Icky Thump continues this development, demonstrating how one of the biggest rock acts in the world are truly junk collectors. You hear them flirting with mariachi and flamenco music, referencing Scottish folk songs, and even covering traditional pop singer Patti Page. The album shows exactly how well-listened Jack White truly is. Greg calls Meg White,“terrific,”standing behind the oft-discredited drummer. He doesn't think Icky Thump is a beginning-to-end perfect album, but believes it's the band's best work to date. He gives it a Buy It. Jim goes even further calling this release“a masterpiece.”That gives the White Stripes latest a double Buy It.
One of hip hop's most successful artists is Eminem. After a five-year wait, he's back with a new album called Relapse. The Detroit rapper has again sought help from producer Dr. Dre, and is again relying on violence and misogyny to shock and entertain listeners. The problem-it's not so shocking anymore. Both Jim and Greg were bored by this record, and Greg hears boredom in Eminem's own voice. Perhaps Em should try a little good taste for a change. He gets a double Trash It.
Last month bassist Michael Davis of the legendary Detroit bands the MC5 and Destroy All Monsters died at age 68. So during this episode Jim wants to honor him by adding a 1979 Destroy All Monsters track called "Meet the Creeper" to the Desert Island Jukebox. It features Davis on bass along with Ron Asheton of The Stooges and a lead singer simply called Niagra.Go to episode 327
In the 1970's, an all African-American band out of Detroit named Death crafted abrasive, no reservations proto-punk songs responding to the city's bleak politics and poverty. Their raw rock edge caught the ear of infamous music industry executive Clive Davis who wanted to debut the band to the world, but only if they'd change their morbid name. The band (of brothers) refused, broke up, and their songs were nearly lost until Chicago record label Drag City got a hold of them and reissued the collection in 2009. Since that release entitled …For the Whole World to See, the band has gotten back together and impressed many with a sound that was clearly ahead of its time. To demonstrate, Greg plays "Politicians in My Eyes."Go to episode 451
Buddy Harman, one of music's great drummers, died this week at the age of 79. Greg explains that Harman was to Nashville what Benny Benjamin was to Detroit or what Hal Blaine was to Los Angeles. He helped define that sound and played on over 18,000 albums. Drumming wasn't even a major part of country music prior to Harman's residency. Just consider what "Pretty Woman" would be without that drum beat. In honor of Harman's passing, Greg chooses to add Elvis Presley's "Little Sister" to the Desert Island Jukebox this week. In addition to proving that Presley still had the chops after his stint in the military, the song showcases Harman's terrific drumming.Go to episode 144
While pop divas like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga have impressive strategic plans for their upcoming albums, news from Beyonce's camp suggest things are more chaotic over there. Sources told the Hollywood Reporter she recently scrapped 50 songs and is starting over, despite having the promotional push of the Superbowl and a world tour.
Is it fair to say Jack White's an all-around good guy? First, he may have donated money to a Detroit baseball field. Then he pitches in to save the city's historic Masonic Temple. And now he's made a generous $200,000 donation to the National Recording Preservation Foundation. Three cheers for this former guest!
Influential guitar player and songwriter J.J. Cale died this week at age 74. Countless musicians have covered Cale over the years, from Captain Beefheart to Neil Young. And to honor him, Jim and Greg play one of Young's favorites, "Crazy Mama."Go to episode 401
Capitol Hill continues to hear from the rock world this week as they conduct hearings on the Performance Rights Act. One of those testifying before our nation's lawmakers is Smashing Pumpkins singer Billy Corgan. Corgan is one of many artists who support a bill that would insure that musicians are paid for radio broadcast performances just as songwriters already are. As Jim and Greg explain, for a long time radio was able to respond to pleas for additional royalties by saying that radio airtime is like an advertisement for musicians. But, now that the landscape of radio has changed, they can no longer make this claim. Fewer and fewer artists are able to use radio as a publicity tool. What was Congress‘ response to this problem? Work it out and learn to play nice, because you can’t afford for us not to intervene.
In other royalty-related news, a verdict came down last week in a case that could have dramatically changed the way artists are paid for their music. Two Detroit producers who had a hand in Eminem's 1999 album The Slim Shady LP sued Universal Music over payments on ringtones and digital downloads. The producers claim they were shortchanged, but according to a Los Angeles jury, the label can continue doing business as usual. This was lucky news to the music industry, according to our hosts. In today's dying music business, digital revenue is looked at as a saving grace.Go to episode 172
Is a fake Louis Vuitton bag the same thing as a shared music file? According to the Department of Homeland Security, it is. Recently they shut down over eighty websites that engaged in pirating or counterfeiting. This mostly included sites related to counterfeit clothing and other goods, but there were also sites that they felt facilitated illegal sharing of music or movie files. These sites were not given prior warning, and Jim and Greg wonder if Homeland Security was asking the right questions before the crackdown.
A few years ago MySpace was the place to connect with people and discover new music. And, while it's still a valuable tool for bands to post their tunes, its business pales in comparison to Facebook. For that reason, Rupert Murdoch and News Corp are considering selling the site. They raised eyebrows when they first purchased MySpace for $580 million in 2005. It's amazing what changes five years can bring.
Kid Rock is pissed. The Detroit rocker is angry about the business practice of those in the secondary ticket market. Because of scalping, $50 tickets for his birthday show in his hometown sold out in nineteen minutes and then went on to resell for $900. While Jim and Greg applaud his passion, they wonder why he's so confused about the issue. Kid Rock should look no further than fellow rocker Trent Reznor for a new business model that better protects his fans.Go to episode 262
So you think you know how kids are consuming music these days? Think again. Media information company Nielsen just released a report that debunks many of the myths surrounding kids and music, the biggest of which is that they just don't buy it anymore. Teens, it turns out, consume more music than any other age group. And though YouTube has edged out radio as their primary means of discovering new music, over a third of teens bought an old-fashioned CD in the past year. What's most surprising? Only 17 percent of teens say they download music illegally.
The Juggalos are fighting back! Last year the FBI placed the Juggalos - superfans of Detroit's horrorcore rap duo Insane Clown Posse - on its National Gang Threat Assessment list. At last weekend's gathering of the Juggalos, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dopeannounced they weren‘t taking the gang label (or accusations of petty theft and violence) lying down. They’ve set up a website, juggalosfightback.com, where fans can submit complaints of discrimination based on their“gang”affiliation in preparation for what could be a class action lawsuit against the FBI. The incident reminds Jim of the FBI's similarly misguided“investigation”into the content of The Kingsmen's 1957 hit "Louie Louie." He thinks maybe it's time the Feds turned off their radios and retired from cultural criticism.Go to episode 351
Casey Kasem, a voice of musical authority almost as well known as Jim and Greg, passed away earlier this month at the age of 82. For nearly four decades Kasem counted down the county's biggest hits on his syndicated radio program American Top 40. While Kasem was born in Detroit, he drew on his family's Lebanese storytelling traditions to inject colorful commentary in between the songs on his countdowns. His unique contribution to music history is matched by his contribution to television history – Kasem voiced the character of Shaggy on Scooby-Doo for over thirty years.
Another memorable voice gone this month belonged to contralto jazz vocalist Jimmy Scott. Though small in stature (Scott's growth was stunted pre-puberty by Kallmann's Syndrome), his voice resonated through the decades with artist as varied as Lou Reed, Marvin Gaye, and Frankie Valli. For nearly 66 of his 88 years, though, Scott was unknown to most people, as he was often not credited for his work singing on other people's records. He‘d nearly faded into obscurity when a record executive heard Scott sing at a friend’s funeral and offered him a solo recording contract that brought Scott's powerfully melancholy voice back to move a whole new generation. In his honor, Greg plays the song "Sycamore Trees" performed by Scott in the final episode of the television series Twin Peaks, which was created by another one of Scott's admirers, David Lynch.Go to episode 447